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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

#StillOurBaby Florence.

Okay, so something very exciting is happening! I've been asking members of the baby loss community if they'd like to share their baby's story, be that their birth story, life after their child, whatever. And I've had an overwhelming response. Before Jonah was born I actively avoided reading about stillbirth and miscarriage. I genuinely believed there was absolutely no way I could survive if it happened to me. And then it did and I had no choice but to survive. The baby loss community have welcomed me with open arms and it's only right that I use this space to share other people's babies as well as my own - so here is my new series #StillOurBaby. Our children's stories deserve to be heard and their name's need to be spoken, so this series will be dedicated to all our beautiful babies who don't have their own voices. Let's keep the conversation and break the silence around baby loss. 

I've given parents pretty much free range over their posts, so photographs will be included in posts, if they wish. There will be a trigger warning before each post. 

My first story comes from Kerry, Florence's mummy. Trigger warning - Please be aware this is discussion of stillbirth and photographs are included in this post. 

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"Thank you so much Katie for giving this opportunity to share Florence’s story. 

Hi all, I’m Kerry, Mummy to our angel Florence, partner to Mark and Step Mummy to Lois. 

The 11th September 2017 will be a day I never forget, it was the day we found out we were expecting our first baby together. It came as a huge surprise as although we weren’t being careful and hoped it would happen, we didn’t think it would without some professional help as I have Polycystic ovaries and investigations were due to start regarding Endometriosis too. 

We were so excited and blessed we had fallen pregnant and at our 12 week scan our little baby was growing so well, and continued to do so at our 20 week scan too. We had chose not to find out if we were expecting a son or daughter as we were grateful for the chance of becoming parents together and couldn’t wait for the surprise. After the 20 week scan we began to start buying bits for our baby's arrival, storing them in a cupboard where they still remain. 

Fast forward to the day that will haunt me for the rest of my life, at just short of 30 weeks pregnant. The 13th February of this year, it was the day we heard those dreaded, heartbreaking words of ‘Sorry, there’s no heartbeat’. I can still hear my scream and sobs and repeatedly saying “how are we going to tell Lois our babies dead” She was so excited at becoming a big sister. I felt so guilty we were now going to have to break her heart too at just 6 years old. Telling her was so tough, and hearing her say “I didn’t know babies could die in their mummy's tummy” broke my already shattered heart some more. 

Two days later, although so tough and emotional, I’m not sure how I even got to back to the hospital - (well I do, that was down to the support and strength of Mark). Despite being one of the hardest days knowing our baby was going to be born silent, it will always be so special, it was the day we got to meet the beautiful baby we had created. 

On the 15th February 2018 at 16.06 hours we got to meet our beautiful daughter weighing at 1lb 7oz. To see her perfect little face looking so much like her sister and daddy, I literally thought my heart was going to burst, I’ve never felt love like it. 

When she was born I just looked at her beautiful face and we knew her name had to be ‘Florence Gwen Gromnicki’. Florence means flowering/blossoming so she instantly became our little Flower and her middle name of Gwen is after my amazing and inspirational Granny who never once moaned before she died despite living with Parkinson’s disease for over 20 years. We loved the thought of having our girls ‘Lo & Flo’. 


Myself, Mark and Florence spent the next 22 hours together in the Primrose Suite at Stoke Mandeville hospital. We created the only memories we could together. I’m so grateful for that time we had with Florence, I hardly slept as I just wanted to take in every inch of her beauty knowing I would never get the opportunity again and spent the time talking, singing (poor poppet I can’t sing for toffee) cuddling and giving her a millions kisses. I smiled at how beautiful and perfect she was, she defiantly took after her daddy - just had my long feet - poor poppet! 

The last 3 months have been the hardest of my life. From planning my future with our baby to suddenly learning our baby had died, being told I’d still have to go through labour and having to leave the hospital with empty arms, to planning our daughters funeral. 

Learning to parent Florence from a far is hard and grief really is like riding the never ending waves. You experience emotions so strong they’re hard to describe and so painful, from one minute being ok/numb to the next minute where the sobs take over and you can’t even catch your breath. 

But I can talk about Flo with such pride too. Florence is already leaving her legacy and making us so proud. She has already raised over £200 for Tommy’s The Baby Charity and nearly £2500 for the Bereavement Room in which she was born so we can help improve things when Parents find themselves in this heartbreaking journey. 

Something that’s always said with all baby-loss parents I’ve met in the last 3 months, we all wish we could stop anyone else from becoming part of this community. But I’m so grateful for the kindness, honesty and support the Instagram baby-loss community gives, it’s really saved me along with family and friends. Especially when you are faced with the moments when your daughters existence is ignored.  Conversations that you have unexpectedly sometimes in which you say you had a baby that died, they say nothing, ignore what you have said and move on. If you are reading this and have never experienced baby loss and someone says they lost a baby, please don’t ignore it, say you are sorry, that you have no words but ask them about their baby - we all love to talk about them too, our babies existed - my Florence existed. 


We are still waiting on Florence’s Post Mortum results, the wait I can only describe as torture, the constant blame on myself - if I did or didn’t do something to harm her. But I just hope she knows how much she is loved and always will be. 

Florence will always be the missing piece of our family, my heart is always going to be so broken that I’ll never get to see her reach her milestones through life but I promised her I would make sure she still went on adventures like she did in my tummy, she will always be so so loved and talked about and everyday I put one step in front of the other is all for her. 

I’m so proud to be Florence’s mummy. 

Thanks for reading. 

Kerry"

You can follow Kerry on Instagram @our_flower_florence
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Thank you so much to Kerry, for sharing beautiful Florence. If you'd like to be a part of this series, please send me an email or message on social media. 

Katie xx
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Monday, 7 May 2018

Help Save a Life.

When I was 17 and applying for my provisional driving license, I distinctly remember receiving a leaflet alongside the form, asking for young people to sign up for blood donations. I'm pretty sure I rang the following week and booked in my first appointment. Over the years, I managed to make 9 donations. I so wish this was more, but without all the excuses, life got in the way. I probably put it off more than I should have but I'm so proud to say I helped save someone's life with those donations. 

In January, after losing 9 litres of blood, I received 16 pints. That's 16 separate donations, from 16 incredible people. Alongside the blood I also received two bags of plasma and two bags of platelets, also donated selflessly from strangers I will never meet. The only reason I am here today is because of those donations. Without people taking a small amount of time from their day to book and appointment and donate, people like me wouldn't survive. Those people are the reason Violet still has her Mama and Jonathan still has his wife. 


 Just to put into context, this is what 16 pints looks like! Image from Google.

If you've never been before the whole thing takes around 20-30 minutes. That's from arrival to finishing your donation. It's a really simple process, from signing a form, having a little pin-prick blood test to ensure you have enough iron to donate and then you're ready to donate. The time it takes for donation varies from person to person, but it's usually between 5-10 minutes. After that you're all done and ready for your drink and biscuits! There is a whole page here about the process. 

There is a lot of information on the NHS Blood Donation website, around who is eligible to donate and where your nearest donation centre is. You can find it all here and can register online too. And if you'd prefer to speak to a human, you can call on 0300 123 23 23. 


I am incredibly grateful and lucky that this blood was available for me. And I hope by raising awareness and sharing my story I can encourage people to go and make a donation and help save someones life. 

Katie xx
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Sunday, 29 April 2018

5 Things; Parenting After Loss.

I think the topic of parenting after loss is something that doesn't really get the attention it needs. I guess we were lucky(?!) in a way that Violet isn't old enough to know exactly what has happened. However I'm under no illusion that she doesn't know anything. V is very aware that something has changed, not only in my physical appearance but also the way we behave as a family unit. Violet had to live without her parents here 24/7 for the whole week I was in hospital. That has certainly had some impact on her and even now, three months down the line, she can be incredibly clingy to both of us. I can't imagine the difficulty of parenting a child that is also grieving for their sibling, as well as coping with your own grief as a parent. But I wanted to touch on the difficulties of parenting after loss the we've experienced, because it is by no means plain sailing.


1. You HAVE to get up in the morning - This is a godsend in someways but one of the hardest things to do, particularly in those first few weeks. Having Violet, meant we had to get up and get dressed, even if we didn't want to. And believe me those days have been many. Some mornings I wake and just wish I could hide under the covers until it's night time again. Some days all I want to do is sleep and simply getting washed and dressed feels like an achievement. I hate that she has seen me cry more in the last three months, than in her whole life. Don't get me wrong, not every day is like that, but they do happen. V is so perfectly innocent, she is the motivation to get me up. She is priority and her days have remained as 'normal' as they can be and that's so important for both her and us.  

2. There are babies everywhere - Okay, pretty obvious, but just think of the places Violet and I hang out. Parent and toddler groups, soft play, museums etc. there are babies, quite literally, everywhere. Even at swimming last week, there was a newborn experiencing their first time in the pool. I realise that there probably aren't any more babies or pregnant ladies, than before we lost Jonah, but I'm so much more aware now. 

3. Every milestone is a reminder - Every first Violet experiences, every birthday, every celebration; is a reminder of what Jonah will never have. So far we've survived Jonathan's birthday, Mother's Day and Easter without our little boy. We can have the most wonderful day exploring and learning new things,  and then suddenly it hits like a tonne of bricks, Jonah will never get to do this. And we have to celebrate for Violet, but it can be so so difficult at times.

4. Socialising with other mothers - If you know me, you'll know I'm not a shy and reserved person. However, finding new parent and toddler groups after Jonah died, I suddenly became far quieter. I imagine for fear of someone inevitably asking 'do you have any other children?' or 'do you think you'll have any more?' - this is the type of chat at most toddler groups. In fact, it's the chat in the line at the Post Office or the queue in the supermarket. Some days I think I'm strong enough to answer any questions that may come my way, but it's the ones that catch you off guard that really shake you up. I was recently at a group and two ladies were discussing baby names, I couldn't think of anyway around the conversation so told them about Jonah. It was good to talk, I felt brave and empowered but haven't felt up to going back. 

5. Watching your child with other children - Violet is one of the most loving, caring, generous little girls I know. I realise I may be a little biased, but she truly is. She adores other children and loves to play with her friends. Every time I watch her interact with other children, I think how much of an amazing big sister she would be. 

The hardest thing of all for me, is accepting our new 'normal' and realising that Violet will only ever remember the Mama after Jonah. She will never remember the person I was before, because I'm not the same and never ever will be. I just hope that she will always know how incredibly loved she is and that although Jonah isn't here in person, he will forever be a part of our lives and will forever be her little brother. 

Katie xx
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